While hotels, vacation rentals, airlines and car rentals bring back the workforce to engage with guests in the new normal and deliver the perfect experience, the focus of travel and hospitality would shift to a new enabler- technology.
The Covid-19 situation will be seen in history as a pivotal moment for tech-evolution. Every industry, process, interaction is now moving to be digitally first especially in high-touch sectors such as travel and hospitality. Most of these changes are permanent, affecting how people would travel, stay, relax, eat, buy souvenirs, etc. There would be micro-markets that would spring up as new local destinations gain traction, newer and smaller businesses offering new services, enhanced packages, staycation trips, and so on. Social media would also be a major driver with influencers making viral posts about their travel. While hotels, vacation rentals, airlines and car rentals bring back the workforce to engage with guests in the new normal and deliver the perfect experience, the focus of travel and hospitality would shift to a new enabler- technology.
Technology to help travellers plan better, businesses serve faster, avoid long queues, enabling paperless and touchless ecosystems, smart stays, safe local travel, and so forth.
Building these solutions would drive a huge demand for tech-talent to create contactless solutions for delivering a flawless experience, as well as build next-generation AI capabilities to predict demand volatility for the industry to be better prepared. For these reasons and more, I believe that travel would need and continue to attract the best tech-talent with the below skills:
1. User Experience Specialists / Design Thinkers: User experience and more importantly design thinking is the need of the day given the plethora of systems in a hotel tech environment. Design thinking of building within system limits and UX’s concept of focus on the customer will bring out the next generation of travel applications that are a joy to use.
2. API Programmers: Travellers would increasingly look for a seamless and connected cross-platform experience while booking. Businesses would also want to broaden their services with more partner integrations, social media presence, channel integrations, payment processing, biometric validations, etc. These would require remote APIs and orchestrations and building loosely-coupled, scalable, and interoperable systems.
Programmers would have a tough job to build an intuitive and creative application or a site that seamlessly coordinates with multiple stakeholders simultaneously. It should be able to render the best deals and offers from consolidators scattered worldwide in real-time to customers, reduce time to market, render multilingual and multi-currency support, safe and secure payments, etc, all via an easy-to-use channel-agnostic interface.
3. Platform Specialists: Actionable Distribution System (DS) and hospitality Business Intelligence (BI) are pivotal for companies to become smarter and efficient. They will have to understand the change in customer behaviour and respond accordingly to help deliver end-to-end services through the platform. It includes identifying and correcting the issues if any. For instance, a Platform Specialist for a booking platform should have a thorough understanding of the group booking capabilities or limitations of the platform and should propose solutions to rectify the same. An agile mindset, proactive attitude, and in-depth knowledge of company offerings will be the key skills needed.
4. Data Scientists: Travel systems generate a ton of data. Whether it’s data from bookings or data from advertising and conversion, model building becomes easier similar to the financial services industry. Some of the examples are using booking data to affect advertising campaigns and micro targeting or booking data to affect distribution channel mix.
5. Cloud Services: Cloud computing offers travel agencies the speed and responsiveness they need to cater to a rapidly changing market. Besides, data storage and application development become a breeze with cloud services. In fact, most companies are following a multi-cloud strategy nowadays as SaaS platforms become indispensable for the foreseeable future.
6. Enterprise Architects and Data Architects: The job of an Enterprise Architect involves overseeing, improving, and upgrading the hardware and software timely for a smooth customer experience. We are living in an era, where customer patience is short-lived and customer experience is supreme. Here, a downtime in digital services and networks or a technical glitch can jeopardize both revenue and reputation, as the customer might hop on to other travel sites and apps in the meanwhile. In short, this technical specialist must possess the best skills (technical or soft skills) to extend a perfect digital product replete with uninterrupted services. Similar to EAs, DAs are key to data governance and data stitching due to the plethora of systems that co-exist in any hospitality or travel company.
7. Mobile First: Many of the new apps we build are built mobile first especially in these Covid times where employees are doing more with fewer resources and longer durations. This requires communications (alerts, messaging, actions) to be brought to the employee rather than the employee going to a singular desktop/laptop.
However, we might see fewer roles for ‘Administrator’ (such as DB Administrator, Network Administrator, Web Server Administrator, etc) within the organisation. This is because the increasing popularity of managed cloud services will need lesser set-ups, taking over administrative tasks. Besides, DevOps has brought in automation wherein developers themselves are taking care of deployments. Undoubtedly, these Administrators need super-specializations and require decades of hands-on experience to fine-tune and operate large enterprises. This advice is less for such super-specialists but more for new joiners and aspirants.
Apart from these, there will be an emerging need for industry mentors or coaches, which might be a contract-based role. These mentors could be practising people having professional and personal skills on how to decode complex problems and can help take big-small decisions, perform reviews, guide or make suggestions, and so forth.
Apart from this, small tools and techniques can go a long way to streamline operations in a jiffy. For instance, whiteboards are the fastest and most-economical tools of written communication for a group, while group discussions are super productive to bring a large group of people on the same page immediately. What we might need are more mentors and coaches to lead and facilitate these discussions. People with broader technology understanding who know pros & cons, possess end-to-end ownership mindset, calculated risk-taking, PPT, and whiteboard writing and good communication skills can take the travel industry to newer heights. Moreover, critical thinkers are irreplaceable in all industries, irrespective of their technical skillset.
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